Saturday, March 19, 2022

Getting to the Point

I've been told that at times my writing is too sparse. A reader won't want to know only that a sleuth walked into a large room with antiques from several eras, they'll think I should describe several of them. 

I can see doing that if it relates to the plot. I think it was one of John Sandford's Virgil Flowers books that featured a large antique desk. Fortunately, someone knew the design well enough to know that if you pushed a button, it could reveal a secret compartment. Thus, the detailed description of the desk was very relevant. Otherwise (to my way of thinking) who cares how many drawers were on the left or right?

Readers. Especially in historical fiction. How else can one know about a style of carriage or what a Victorian house looks like?

I like to let readers know things that reach the point-of-view character's senses. Are there odors in a house? Do the dead flies seen on a windowsill say something about how long a house has been vacant? If it's really cold out, it matters if the sleuth wears a sweater or a parka.

It matters if a character is tall or short, black or white, or if they speak with an accent. And many other things. If someone is a fastidious dresser, then they'd never pair a brown purse with blue shoes or a patterned tie with a striped suit. But if fashion choices aren't integral to the plot, how much does a reader need to know about an outfit?

I do mention a character's clothes some because color gives a good image. Also, the ghost in the Family History Mystery Series (books 2 and forward) can change clothes by thinking about it. His wardrobe choices add humor or occasionally let a reader know something before the sleuth (Digger) knows.

For the genre fiction I write now, I think I'll stick with more minimal description. More may come later...

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1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you, Elaine. I don't enjoy long descriptions when I read, so why would I put them in my stories? Also, when I began writing, I mostly wrote short stories. That taught me to write tight.